CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Moments after Hurricane secured a 3-2 walk-off win over Bridgeport late Friday in a Class AAA semifinal, Redskins’ head coach Brian Sutphin made it a point to note that his team had not yet accomplished what it set out to do at the start of the season — claim the program’s fourth state championship.
That opportunity came 17 hours later when second-seeded Hurricane took on No. 4 George Washington in a Mountain State Athletic Conference matchup for the Class AAA crown at Appalachian Power Park.
While Sutphin was well aware most people considered his team somewhat of a heavy favorite against the Patriots, he was wary of a letdown, particularly when factoring in the emotions of the tightly-contested victory over the Tribe in addition to the Patriots eliminating top seed Jefferson by virtue of a 5-4 victory in a semifinal.
The Redskins instead were locked in from start to finish, getting a stellar pitching performance from Ethan Spolarich and capitalizing on several Patriot miscues early in the contest to create separation in an 11-0 five-inning victory.
“It was a concern with that kind of ball game and that emotion and intensity for every pitch of the game [in the semifinal], but this is a tough group,” Hurricane head coach Brian Sutphin said. “Last year they won 32 in a row and they got to the state championship game, didn’t play well and got beat by a really good team. To have the opportunity to get back here and have that chance again, it’s nice to see them get what they want.”
It marked Hurricane’s fifth consecutive appearance in a Class AAA final, with the Redskins (34-4) improving to 2-3 in those contests.
(Postgame “Round of Sound”)
Spolarich worked around a pair of first-inning walks to prevent the Patriots (21-16) from scoring, and he had the benefit of pitching with a lead the rest of the way.
“I felt like I had my tempo and I was breathing more than I normally do,” Spolarich said. “Other than the first inning, I was throwing strikes.”
A walk, wild pitch and hit batsman led to Hurricane scoring its first run on a double steal that saw Spolarich touch the plate in the home half of the first, giving the Redskins a 1-0 lead.
A quality catch from Eli Dawson in left field accounted for the final out of the first and prevented Luka Moore from likely driving in two runs with an extra-base hit, though it failed to create momentum for the Patriots.
While both Spolarich and GW starting pitcher Eli Ellis retired the side in order in the second, and Spolarich did so again in the third, the Redskins essentially put the game out of reach when they came to bat in the third.
Spolarich set the tone for the eight-run inning, which he led off with a double, before scoring on Damian Witty’s single to center.
Quarrier Phillips drew a base-on-balls and Bryson Rigney was hit by a pitch, setting the stage for Moore’s sacrifice fly and a throwing error that brought Phillips home to up Hurricane’s lead to 3-0.
After Bryson Hoff relieved Ellis with two outs in the inning following another hit batsman, the Patriots continued to hurt their cause and Rigney came home on a wild pitch for his team’s fourth run.
“We picked a bad day to have a bad day,” GW head coach Mike Davis said. “We just kind of ran out of some of the things that we had been doing that got us to that point. You can’t have passed balls and give bases away. We really didn’t have a lot of answers for some of the things they were doing out there. You have to tip your cap to them. They’re a hell of a program and they do things the right way and they were the much better team today.”
(Greg Carey and Joe Brocato put a wrap on the tournament)
Caden Johnson connected for a two-run single moments after, and later in the inning, Spolarich brought home Caden Dingess with a triple to left, before courtesy runner Braden Sloan scored the eighth run of the inning on Brogan Brown’s single to center.
“It was nice to see us get started in the third,” Sutphin said. “An eight-run inning doesn’t happen very often.”
Hurricane upped the advantage to double digits in the fourth when Rigney scored on a wild pitch after he’d reached on a one-out single. The final run of the contest was scored by Moore courtesy of Dingess’ single.
“We didn’t hit well last night, so we spent a lot of time in the cage today,” Spolarich said. “We wanted to come out and hit the ball today as we did. I’m super proud of these guys and I love them with all my heart.”
Spolarich recorded 13 outs before allowing a Tyler Smith single that marked the Patriots’ first and only hit. It was immediately followed by a double play ball to third off the bat of Joseph Lively that ended the contest early on the 10-run mercy rule through five innings.
“He just kept coming at them,” Sutphin said of Spolarich. “Early on, he walked two in the first, but then he got settled. I’m so proud of him. He’s a great young man and he deserves everything he gets.”
Spolarich struck out two and walked two in an efficient effort.
“He was up and down and in and out and we just couldn’t get on him,” Davis said. “I did not like our at bats early in the game. Once they got a few runs, we started feeling a little bit of pressure that we hadn’t felt in a long, long time.”
He was also 2-for-2 with one RBI and a pair of runs. Six other Hurricane players recorded one hit in the convincing win.
Ellis was the first of our pitchers utilized by the Patriots. He took the loss after allowing seven runs on two hits with four walks in 2 2/3 innings.
The Redskins did not commit an error in two state tournament victories.
“They put the team first above their own individual stuff,” Sutphin said, “and it shows in the way they play defense.”
Class AAA all-tournament team
Griffin Horowicz, Jefferson
Ben McDougal, Bridgeport
Brogan Brown, Hurricane
Quarrier Phillips, Hurricane
Bryson Hoff, GW
Caden Johnson, Hurricane
Owen Gress, Hurricane
Isaac McCallister, GW
Ethan Spolarich, Hurricane
Damian Witty, Hurricane